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11 JULY 2014

The Phantom of Liberty: humorous critique of bourgeois conventions

"Luis Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty was quickly dismissed upon its release in 1974. Not only did it have to contend with the lingering success of 1972's similarly themed but significantly less abstract The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, but it was quickly followed by the dreamlike, bi–polar romantic entanglement of the director's last film, That Obscure Object of Desire. Like Discreet Charm, the plot–free Phantom of Liberty is a patchwork of comedic sketches and sight gags through which Buñuel ravages a complacent European culture and the various sexual hang–ups and historical and cultural disconnects of its inhabitants. This heady, almost off–putting masterwork isn't particularly easy to decipher (maybe we aren't meant to), which is why it's best to approach it as a literal comedy of manners.

Films structured around daisy chains of dysfunction are a dime a dozen; most, though, are as tiresomely long–winded as they are content with their own strained circularity. This isn't the case with Phantom of Liberty, which begins with a shot of Goya's 1808 masterpiece 'The Third of May.' The painting depicts Napoleon's army executing a group of faceless Spaniards, and via a reenactment of this struggle, Buñuel depicts how one of Napoleon's captains tries to defile the monument of Doña Elvira only to be smacked on the head by the moving arm of the statue of the woman's husband. (He later intends to sleep with the woman's corpse, and when he opens her coffin, he's amazed by how her beauty has been preserved.) It's the first of many sight gags in the film, each and every one as startling as they are perversely funny. All these moments are possessed by a sense of shocked wonderment and discovery, and they all more or less evoke fragile pasts and characters trying to reconcile their historical detachments."

(Ed Gonzalez, 13 September 2003, Slant Magazine)

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TAGS

1974absurd situationsabsurdist humourabsurdity • Adolfo Celi • Adriana Asti • Anne-Marie Deschott • apparition • Arch de Triomphe • archaic rules • Bernard Verley • black humour • bourgeois • bourgeoise societycancer • chance encounter • cigarettes • Claude Pieplu • coffin • comedic sketches • comedycomedy of mannerscorpsecritiquecultural conventionscultural pastdaughterdining practicesdinner tabledisappearancedoctor • Dona Elvira • eatingepisodic structureetiquetteEuropean cinema • European culture • faith • Francois Maistre • girl • Goya • Helene Perdriere • hotel • housemaid • humour • impulses • internal logic • intrusion • Jean Rochefort • Jean-Claude Brialy • Julien Bertheau • Le Fantome de la Liberte (1974) • Luis Bunuel • mailman • masterwork • Michael Lonsdale • Michel Piccoli • Milena Vukotic • Monica Vitti • Montparnasse • morality • nanny • narrative preconceptions • obscene • ostrich • parodypatchwork • Paul Frankeur • phallicphallic symbol • Philippe Brigaud • Pierre Maguelon • policepolite societypostcard • postman • psychoanalysisritual • rooster • rulesschool • schoolchildren • Serge Silberman • sexual hang-ups • sexual taboo • sight gag • sketch comedy • sniper • social behavioursocial conventionsSpanish filmsubconscioussurrealist cinemasurrealist filmmakertaboo • That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) • The Phantom of Liberty (1974) • The Third of May (1808) • toilettriptych • vanished • visual gagzoo

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
06 NOVEMBER 2011

Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing

"Of course, other kinds of assignments involving visuals do occur in college writing pedagogies. Visual analysis (especially advertising analysis) has been commonplace in postsecondary writing instruction for at least fifty years as a part of the post–World War II emphasis on propaganda and semantics characteristic of many composition and communication courses beginning in the 1940s, but that practice did not always or consistently include careful consideration of how images, layout, or graphics actually communicated meaning. Instead, advertising was treated as a subject for critique rather than itself a form of communication that employed both word and image" (Diana George, 2002, p.21).

"If I have given the impression that the media revolution of the fifties and sixties was a tough one for [writing] composition teachers, then I must say here that the world of graphic design, electronic text, and Web technologies certainly will prove even more difficult, though ultimately perhaps more useful for future understandings of composition as design. As with written compositions, Web pages must have an internal coherence; they must, in other words, be navigable. Unlike written compositions, the internal logic of a Web piece is likely to appear first in the visual construction of the page – not only in the images chosen but the colors, the placement of text or links, the font, the use of white space, and other elements linked more closely to the world of graphic design than to composition pedagogy. The work of Anne Wysocki is useful here as she challenges writing teachers to rethink their notions of what composition means – beyond the word and inclusive of the visual. Wysocki writes, 'When we ask people in our classes to write for the Web we enlarge what we mean by composition. None of us are unaware of the visuality of the Web, of how that initial default, neutral grey has a different blankness than typing–paper' ('Monitoring Order'). And whether it is true or not that their teachers are aware of the difference between the blank screen and the blank page, our students are certainly aware of this difference. Many already compose for the Web. Many have worked in the realm of the visual (or the virtual) as constitutive of composing texts of all sorts years before they get to their first–year college courses."

(Diana George, 2002, p.26,27)

Fig.1 Photography: She is Frank, Styling: Tessa O'Connor, Hair/Makeup: Megan Harrison, Model: Bree Unthank @ Giant Model Management [http://wearehandsome.com/a–handsome–project–she–is–frank/]

2). Diana George. "From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing," College Composition and Communication 54.1 (2002): 11–39.

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TAGS

2002academic writingadvertisingadvertising analysis • Anthony Petrosky • Christine McQuade • communication and composition • complex communication • composing texts • composition as design • composition pedagogy • content analysis • D. G. Kehl • David Bartholomae • Dean Johnson • Deirdre Johns • Delmar George Kehl • Diana George • Donald McQuade • electronic text • Englishes • George Lyman Kittredge • graphic designgraphic representation • Houghton Mifflin • image analysis • image as dumbed-down language • image-as-prompt • image-rich culture • internal coherence • internal logic • James McCrimmon • John Berger • John Hays Gardiner • John Trimbur • Joseph Frank • Lucille Schultz • mass media • materiality of literacy • media literacymulti-modal design • multiliteracies • multiliteracy • multimodal composition • navigable • Neil Postman • New London Group • pedagogypictorial systemspopular culture • Robert Connors • Rudolph Flesch • Sarah Louise Arnold • teaching of writing • technologysaturated • televisiontextual analysis • verbal and visual relationships • verbal communication • visual communicationvisual construction • visual construction of the page • visual designvisual languagevisual literacy • visuality of the web • Walker Gibson • web technologies • William Costanzo • William Hogarth • writing • writing composition • writing for the web • writing teachers • written compositions

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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